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March 27, 2000

The Daily Prospectus

A Baseball "Academy Awards"

by Joe Sheehan

As I write this, the Academy Awards telecast is just about ending. For those of you on the East Coast who were probably in the shower or on your way to work this morning during the last few presentations, here's the recap: Hilary Swank, Kevin Spacey, Sam Mendes (for directing "American Beauty") and "American Beauty." I'll never understand why long World Series games threaten democracy, but the Oscars can run so late that they're a lead-in for "Jeopardy."

On the other hand, they do generate a lot of free publicity for the movie industry, while ensuring we see Billy Crystal once a year, no matter what bizarre role choices he makes in the interim. Given MLB's desire for as much exposure as possible--First Pitch 2000 is at 5 a.m. EST Wednesday, folks--doesn't there have to be some way they can get on this media gravy train?

Oh, sure, there are the Players' Choice Awards, and if we searched really far and wide I'm sure we could dig up a few people who care about them. They're a good idea, just poorly executed. What I'm suggesting is changing the way the major awards, the BBWAA ones, are announced. Instead of eight press releases over two weeks in November, have a Baseball Awards Night at some suitably warm locale in mid-November. The original staggering of the award announcements was designed to keep baseball in the news in November, until the Hot Stove League began. Nowadays, with saturation media coverage of any and all things baseball, there's not much chance the grand old game's highest honors are going to get lost in the shuffle.

So bag the current setup, and pick one grand evening in November to present the eight major awards. Throw in a few others (Comeback Player of the Year, Hank Aaron Award), maybe a tribute to that season's World Series champs and a salute to any notable retiring players, and you have more than enough with which to pique interest and sell advertising. Not on ESPN, either: make one of baseball's network partners take it, preferably whoever has the World Series. They can promote the hell out of it during the Fall Classic.

Now, an award show like this is going to lack something, a certain, shall we say, "revealing" element that the Oscars always have. Let's face it: no one is tuning in to see what Nomar Garciaparra is going to wear. But you can sprinkle in some presenters who are well-known and easy on the eyes, and good baseball players have been known to have attractive dates, so there will be some presence. To break up the award presentations, have some musical performances and some short features on things like MLB players in the community and profiles of interesting players.

Altogether, I think there's a quality two-hour show here, one that will obviously appeal to hardcore and more mainstream fans and can reach out and hold the interest of enough casual fans to justify its existence. Bud, I'll clear out November so I can be available to emcee.

If Billy declines, that is.

Joe Sheehan can be reached at jsheehan@baseballprospectus.com.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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Related Content:  The Oscars,  The Academy Awards

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